The incredible rise of Shiba Inu (SHIB 2.09%) has been one of 2021's most unlikely and exciting investing stories. The cryptocurrency token's valuation has surged roughly 45,000,000% year to date and generated life-changing returns for investors who put even relatively small sums into the token and held on through its bullish run.

Even after pulling back from its lifetime high, Shiba Inu currently has a roughly $19 billion market capitalization. The cryptocurrency has enjoyed stellar momentum despite volatile trading, but can it cross the $100 billion mark by the end of next year?

The number '2022' on a chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

How the SHIB token became a sensation

The SHIB token stands as one of history's most explosive investment winners. Its performance is even more incredible, considering it started as something of a joke. While Dogecoin was digitally minted as a cryptocurrency to spoof Bitcoin, SHIB entered the market as a spoof on the DOGE token. Even in the age of memes, being brought into the world as a spoof of a spoof is an unlikely foundation for generating legendary returns.

Virtual currencies being started as jokes and amassing billion-dollar market capitalizations was at one point an unprecedented and seemingly impossible development, but here we are. Shiba Inu has managed to attract a large and highly engaged pool of supporters, and people who doubted its explosive growth potential have watched as the token repeatedly beat the odds. While the token lacks traditional fundamentals or use cases beyond serving as a currency or speculative investment vehicle, that hasn't stopped it from posting massive gains.

If SHIB continues to gain adoption among cryptocurrency users and investors, it's possible that its token price will climb significantly above current levels. Considering that the cryptocurrency has already posted massive gains across 2021's trading, it's not out of the question that it could grow an additional 4.5x by the end of next year.

What could drive SHIB to $100 billion?

Shiba Inu was recently priced at roughly $0.000034, down more than 50% from its lifetime pricing high of $0.00008841 per token. Climbing back to its lifetime high would bring the token's market cap back up to roughly $50 billion. From there, it would only need to double once more to hit the $100 billion threshold.

Cryptocurrencies can enable companies and services to cut down on transaction fees and other hurdles created by needing to move money through banks and payment processing services. SHIB is set to be accepted as payment tender at AMC Entertainment's theaters within the next few months, and additional integration with other businesses and services could create more positive momentum for the coin. Most recently, SHIB investors have been getting excited about the possibility that the token could be integrated into metaverse projects.

It's also worth noting that SHIB has had a crypto bull market on its side for much of 2021, and the token will likely continue to trade heavily in line with the broader cryptocurrency market. For Shiba Inu to hit $100 billion by the end of the next year, the overall cryptocurrency market will likely have to continue to enjoy strong bullish momentum. Otherwise, the cryptocurrency will need some very encouraging business integration and user adoption trends to grow 4.5 times from its current valuation level by 2022's end.

How should investors play Shiba Inu mania?

The volatile and unpredictable nature of SHIB's pricing swings means it's difficult to map out with significant specificity where the cryptocurrency's valuation will move next. Outside of attracting more investors and adopters, seeing the bullish surge for the broader crypto space continue, or generating more meme energy, there doesn't seem to be many immediately identifiable coin-specific catalysts that will drive its token price significantly higher.

However, the coin's market capitalization could surge above $100 billion next year. Based on the token's demonstrated penchant for explosive gains and rising interest in the overall cryptocurrency space, the SHIB token may be capable of delivering even more huge gains. Investors simply need to approach the token with the understanding that its trading will likely continue to be highly volatile.

The potential for more incredible gains is still there, but Shiba Inu remains an incredibly high-risk investment, and you probably shouldn't buy the token unless you're also willing to embrace the potential for substantial losses.